• Dr. Clint Woo, DPT, PT

Physical Therapy for Stroke (Cerebral Vascular Accident): Starting Rebuilding Now!

Updated: Aug 3, 2020

To put it simply, a cerebral vascular accident (CVA) is when blood supply to a part of the brain is interrupted. Incidents of strokes are easily in the hundreds of thousands per year forever impacting people's lives. Depending on where in the brain and how severe the blood cut of was (thus lack of oxygen delivery), the symptoms of strokes can vary drastically. Physical Therapy (PT) is one of the most important aspects of recovery and adoption post stroke. In PT, individuals are safely taken through a rigorous stretching, strengthening, transfer, endurance, and overall mobility program. For instance if you were to find a Certified Stroke Rehabilitation Specialist (CSRS), PT would first assess what movements are limited due to more set deficits vs not well-practiced related deficits. After that, the next step could involve addressing those deficits that can be improved upon followed up by compensating for the issues that will take much longer to work on.

While we already alluded to the variety of presentations someone with a CVA can have, let's take into consideration a person with the following description. A person suffered a stroke 1 year ago and went through the inpatient and outpatient therapy, but they are still struggling with transfers (sitting up from the bed, standing up from a chair, etc) and walking (ambulation) with or without an assistive device (AD: cane, walker, etc). A CSRS (Certified Stroke Rehabilitation Specialist) would be able to apply the most recent research on what has been found to be useful for stroke victims and apply them to the patient's treatment! Perhaps what was believed to have been effective 8 years ago is now only thought to be minimally so, thus we won't waste time on it! Perhaps some research has found certain treatments to be effective only under an extended period of time and not as useful if done for too short a time!

If the sit-to-stand transfer is difficult, PT would assess if this difficulty is based on lack of range of motion (ROM) in the joints, weakness of the leg/arms, poor technique (leaning to one side and not shifting forward enough), dizziness due to issues of blood pressure regulation, direction following comprehension (perhaps physical cues are better than verbal?). If walking is an issue, again the similar decision tree would present in a PT's mind, but with even more branches. Has vision been affected by the stroke?...easily distracted since the CVA?...these are the all factors that the CSRS PT can take into account and adjust accordingly!

As a disclaimer, this blog post isn’t intended as professional clinical advice.We at Woo Physical Therapy and Wellness are proud to serve the Anne Arundel, Howard, and Prince George's counties in-home and online anywhere in the U.S.A.!!

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